Cat Ferguson took the plaudits as the Youth Tour of Scotland returned for the first time since 2019, winning both stages on day one of the 2022 edition of the race to don the leader’s yellow jersey.
Set against a stunning Perthshire backdrop, on a cold but beautiful morning, the action got underway as riders rolled out for the inaugural prologue at the Youth Tour. With the girls leading the way, riders started their three days of racing at 30 second intervals, with riders coming in thick and fast, the lead changing hands on numerous occasions.
First rider off, Aelwen Davies from Wales, made history in being the early leader in the 2022 edition of this race, completing the 1 mile course in 3.29, which would stand up as a very good effort by the time all 76 riders had completed their short leg-sapping burst. The prologue course, starting outside Forteviot Village Hall, was composed of a fairly straight, softly rolling 800m stretch of road, before a dead turn and then returning back the way they had come.
Amelia Cebak of British Cycling Central took an early lead, but she was soon surpassed by Carys Lloyd from the British Cycling South East, who set a swift mark of 3.17 to take the lead. Ultimately it would only last for 60 seconds, as two riders back, Cat Ferguson of British Cycling Yorkshire pipped her by a second.
Despite 47 other riders giving it their best go, Ferguson would prevail in taking the stage, and would wear the yellow leaders jersey in the afternoon’s opening road race. Lloyd remained second quickest, with a trio of riders, including Cebak, finishing joint third quickest.
One of the early finishers, Mabli Phillips of Wales, who was fourth off the start line, was delighted to be at Strathallan for a weekend of racing, commenting:
“That was tough! It’s not completely flat – there are a few hills out there. This is my first time at the Youth Tour of Scotland and I’m very excited for the rest of the weekend – I can’t wait. We’ve got a good team, and we’re quite a close team, so it’s going to be a good few days.”
There was a theme starting to develop, with multi-discipline riders to the fore as the close racing started to get spectators excited along with compact prologue course. Ferguson, a cyclocross rider of some pedigree, took the women’s and it was Sebastian Grindley from British Cycling North West, also a classy cross rider taking the early lead in the boy’s event, posting an extremely quick 2.55 time.
It would be a long while before we saw another sub three minute clocking, but none would surpass him, as he topped the table in the boy’s opener. Seth Dunwoody of Ireland Development, followed by Wales pairing of Finlay Tarling and Sam Fisher all clocked 2.58 to lead the chasing pack – ultimately there was still very little to choose between the leading riders as they started the first road stage.
The afternoon kicked off with the first girl’s road race of the weekend, and looking resplendent with the yellow jersey of general classification leader on her back, Cat Ferguson reigned supreme once more, taking victory on the line in a fast bunch finish.
With strength in depth, Yorkshire rode hard on the front over the main climb on each of the five laps, distancing more and more riders as the race went on, but they couldn’t prize themselves clear of the bunch, meaning some 40 riders were left to vie for victory on the line. Ferguson got it right though, the Yorkshire rider positioning herself perfectly, to power down the finishing straight, with time to throw an arm aloft.
After she commented:
“That road race didn’t go quite how we had planned, as Yorkshire, we have such a strong team we wanted to try and get away on the climb and gain a bit of time, but we managed to get the win! I don’t really like bunch finishes, but when it goes well it’s great!
“This race is amazing - there’s 75 girls and with closed roads and race cars it’s a big step up and it’s pretty cool. Hopefully I can stay in the lead in the GC now and win the team competition with Yorkshire.”
Ferguson leads the Team Competition with her Yorkshire squad while also taking the Queen of the Mountains Classification polka-dot jersey and also leads the Points Classification, while Erin Boothman wears the best Scot blue jersey, just 21 seconds behind the race leader.
Tackling the same course, the boy’s race was even more attritional, as towards the back end of nine laps of racings, small groups would go clear on the climb, only to be reeled in on the long downhill stretch into the finish line.
With one to go, having pulled back the best of the breakaway attempts, a lull in pace saw yellow jersey Sebastian Grindley go on the offensive, but despite getting notable gap, he was brought back on the fast run for home.
In the end, the assembled crowd were treated to a reduced bunch finish, William Gillbank from British Cycling Eastern using his power to take the stage, punching the air in delight. Second across the line was Seth Dunwoody, who was also second in the prologue, with leader Grindley third.
That meant the boy’s faced a nervous wait to see who would wear yellow on day two, after time bonuses and primes had been taken into account. It was Stage 1 winner William Gillbank who stole yellow from Grindley by virtue of his stage one win after the pair finished on the same time; he also took hold of the green jersey to lead the Points Classification. Ahron Dick, who made a long-range attack on Stage 1, will wear the blue jersey as the best Scottish rider, whilst Finlay Hawker clinched the King of the Mountains Classification.
On taking yellow, Gillbank said:
“Down the hill I just followed one of the Irish guys as we kept moving up and then I just came round him at the end and went for it – I know I’ve got a good sprint on me so I just went for it! I came here to have fun – I know I’m not the greatest up the hills, but I just want to hang in there as long as I can and help the team out.
“There are some great riders who’ve come through this race and had great careers and I want to be the next one. I’ll learn a lot this weekend; about myself, about how to race – this weekend is a bit like being a pro with all the support from team managers, teammates and staying away from home for the whole race and everything else.”
Results from the day’s action can be found here